USA auto regulator probes Tesla 'Autopilot' crash

Chelsea West
January 26, 2018

A union representing the firefighters claimed in a tweet that the driver said his vehicle was in Autopilot mode.

Also, the board said, the Autopilot technology that monitors whether a driver has their hands on the steering wheel isn't a good way to tell if the driver is paying attention.

This is the second time the safety board has probed a Tesla crash that may be linked to Autopilot, Tesla's semi-autonomous driver assist system that handles some tasks and allows drivers under certain conditions to take their hands off the wheel for extended periods.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted separate tests of the Tesla automation after the accident, finding that it "avoided crashes for the majority of rear-end scenarios", NTSB said in its report. The company said it has taken steps to educate drivers about the need to keep their hands on the steering wheel and be prepared to take over from Autopilot, which it calls an "advanced driver assistance system" that is not meant to turn the vehicle into an autonomous auto.

NHTSA also investigated the 2016 crash and concluded that there was no "defect in design or performance" of the Autopilot system.

Neither agency would comment further, but it's likely they both will seek information about whether Autopilot was on and if its sensors somehow failed to see a stopped firetruck Monday on Interstate 405 in Culver City near Los Angeles.

The irony, say autonomous vehicle proponents, is that fact that federal data show about 93% of fatal crashes are the result of human error.

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The NTSB has previously said Tesla's Autopilot system was a contributing factor in a 2016 fatal crash in Florida.

The fire service added that there were no injuries reported from the crash with the Tesla.

A Tesla Model S was completely destroyed in a May 2016 crash that killed Joshua Brown. But drivers must still be ready to retake control if the system glitches.

It is noted in the manual, however, that the Autopilot 'should still be considered a driver's assistance feature with the driver responsible for remaining in control of the auto at all times'.

NHTSA, which regulates auto safety, declined previous year to issue a recall or fine Tesla as a result of the crash, but it warned automakers they aren't to treat semi-autonomous cars as if they were fully self-driving.

These warnings were not adhered to and it forced Tesla to input a new safety feature which will prevent Autopilot from functioning if the hands are not on the wheel.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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